When Jim Henmueller joined Illiana Financial Credit Union as CEO, one of his first actions was to sit in the lobby and watch members come and go.
Then he ventured into Calumet City, Ill., and its neighboring communities—many of which are home to large working-class and low-income populations—to gauge how the community aligned with the foot traffic he witnessed flowing in and out of the $233 million asset credit union.
A decade later, Illiana Financial has made huge strides attracting and serving Hispanic members by becoming more inclusive and tapping into the power of changing demographics.
“Driving through the community, I saw little stores, restaurants, bakeries, and markets popping up,” Henmueller recalls. “I thought, ‘Why aren’t we serving this segment of the market?’
"There’s nothing magical about it. It’s about serving the people you’re there to serve.”
Henmueller also knew he had to get the board and staff to buy into the idea.
“The message was, ‘We have to change, because the community is changing around us,’” he says.
Illiana Financial isn’t alone in recognizing the potential the Hispanic population presents.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a record 59.9 million Hispanics resided in the country in 2018, up from 47.8 million in 2008. They account for 18% of the entire population.
By 2060, the agency predicts nearly one in three people in the U.S. will identify as Latino.
Demographically, the Hispanic market holds great potential for credit unions, but it requires special attention from human resources, marketing, and product development standpoints.
‘Hispanics can come from 20-plus countries in Latin America.’
Victor Miguel Corro
The Hispanic immigrant population consists of many individuals who are unbanked or underbanked. But as a group, Hispanics are gaining economic traction in the U.S., according to the Hispanic Wealth Project.
“Credit unions need to recognize the business case and generate the buy-in internally,” says Victor Miguel Corro, CEO of Coopera, a Hispanic market solutions company that enables credit unions to assess needs and create growth strategies to increase Hispanic membership.
“When they get that buy-in and recognize the imperative to serve the market, they need a solid strategic plan to serve, grow, attract, and understand the Hispanic community around them,” he says.
Credit unions also need to realize the Hispanic community is not a monolithic entity, and that serving this community requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach, says Corro.
“Hispanics can come from 20-plus countries in Latin America, each with its own history, cultural nuance, and flavor of the Spanish language. Those data points are important for credit unions to know,” Corro says. “You’re not targeting a general market but really two or three key markets so you can make a difference.”
Each of those markets has generational differences and variations in how long they’ve been in the U.S.
Once you have a handle on the demographics and target markets, Coopera—Spanish for “cooperate”—establishes what it calls the “four Ps:” personnel, processes, products, and promotion.
Reaching the Hispanic market requires more than simple translation of marketing materials, Corro says.
“Are you welcoming members in language? Are you accepting documents they may have to prove their identity? Are your products and services responding to the needs of that community?”
Next week: Juntos Avanzamos designation identifies credit unions' commitment to serving Hispanic members.